Sandu’s Speech in Parliament: What for?

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Sergiu CEBAN
Maia Sandu’s unexpected and quite peculiar appearance in Parliament meant to address at least several pressing issues at once
Moldova continues to enjoy increased international attention, and the visits of high-ranking guests from Washington and London prove that. Surprisingly, the foreign emissaries made no loud statements this time but, presumably, they brought firm guarantees of support and protection for the current government. Apparently, this emboldened Maia Sandu to voice several important messages from the parliamentary rostrum – first of all, to inject a dose of optimism into the doubting elites. The sudden arrival of the president to the people’s deputies is a clear sign that the domestic context is not simple and requires strong and decisive steps. That is also evidenced by the specific character of Sandu’s speech, which was assessed differently in the expert community. At the same time, everyone is more interested in the motives that prompted the head of state to make this speech, what exactly she wanted to tell the deputies and the public. The first thing she emphasized was the “historic moment” that Moldova is going through right now, and that 2023 will predetermine the republic’s face in the next decade. Does it mean that we are on the threshold of great deeds and achievements? The year 2030 was confidently announced as the date for achieving the goal of joining the European Union. Judging by the tone of the president’s remarks, Washington is ready to help us along this path, provided our state will strictly follow the chosen course, and the pointer on Chisinau’s “geopolitical compass” will not rotate chaotically because of electoral or external factors. What is unusual for Maia Sandu is an attempt to talk frankly with the opposition MPs, wondering whether they still believe in alternative models of Moldova’s development. By doing so, the opposition was apparently invited to think about the conditional consensus of all political elites. Since Sandu stepped over her morals and decided to reach out, it seems that our Western partners put a condition to reach the Moldovan version of the Snagov Declaration (the document signed by the Romanian parliamentary party leaders on June 21, 1995 confirmed the overall approval of the national strategy for Romania’s EU accession). Political forces and parties that continue to obstruct what the president believes to be the only true pro-European course will be instantly labeled as the providers of the Kremlin’s interests and subjected to sanctions. With such harsh remarks against dissenters, Maia Sandu seems to hint that all those who oppose the current government will be cracked down by force. Most likely, the near future will see a lot more street protesters detained, more countermeasures by security forces, and more efforts to suppress socio-political activity. Of course, Sandu made separate remarks about Russia signaling that all bridges with Russia are burnt, and that Moscow’s steps to destabilize the situation and bring its order to Moldova will be neutralized. At the same time, we are allegedly not at risk yet thanks to the barrier created by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, which keeps our country safe. This attitude looks not very serious and even a bit naïve. It is hardly possible to hide forever behind the AFU, with the ongoing danger for Moldova to split and disintegrate, since the geopolitical front line and the actual fighting line are geographically different. In any case, the glossy cover of the country’s “European Moldova 2030” project, built on several key pillars, is attractive at first glance. Among them is the judiciary system, which “must administer justice”. No wonder, the judges earned the sharpest epithets from Sandu, right when, in parallel with her speech in Parliament, a general meeting of judges was held for the first time in four years to select four of the five candidates for the Superior Council of Magistracy. The response of the judicial community was not long in coming: the session was suspended until April 28. In fact, the progress of the justice reform was put on hold. At today’s meeting of the Supreme Security Council, the president is likely to openly confront the judicial clans that have launched a boycott. “I see that the judges chose to block the cleanup of justice and continue impeding the restoration of justice in Moldova,” the head of state said. It is interesting to see how she will deal with the servants of Themis and what original solution Sandu’s advisers will offer. This is only the first sign, and our system will definitely show its worth more than once, in desperate resistance to a bright European future. It seems that someone in the West or perhaps some circumstances are forcing the president towards a decisive step, which prompts all the talk about a “breakthrough” year of 2023. Whether it will prove to be such is a big question.  But indeed, this year is a runaway train of history, and Moldova still has a chance to jump into the last car, which is why Sandu is in such a hurry, so persuasive and so harsh in responding to any resistance. Of course, experts loyal to the regime tried to rank the speech of the head of state as a “historical event”. Yet, an objective analysis of the content of this message reveals the desire of the president’s strategists to solve several tactical problems – first of all, to break the wave of protest. It is obvious to most experts that foreign policy topics, which were used to mask the misdeeds of the government and socio-economic problems, are gradually “losing their audience”. The population is more and more concerned with domestic issues to which the country’s leaders have no answers. Natalia Gavrilita’s resignation allowed a brief respite and a chance to let off steam of social discontent, but not for long. Among other things, Maia Sandu’s speech featured electoral overtones. In 2023, Moldova enters a long electoral period with several cycles, which will span several years. Objectively, the ruling party, the president and the Western partners fear the political death of the whole architecture of the current regime, so their fate largely depends on what they will be able to offer to the voters. However, the president’s half-hour speech, packed with traditional and therefore somewhat boring pro-European ideas, did not inspire much confidence or hope that things can work out. Alas, for many people the speech was more like a sign of some bitter hopelessness and despair.